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Homecoming for Holmes


The PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville will mark a welcome return to his home state by J.B. Holmes. The 32-year-old native of Campbellsville, Ky., will be teeing it up Thursday along with the rest of the world's best golfers in the final Grand Slam event of the year.

The three-time PGA Tour winner, who's most recent victory came in May at the Wells Fargo Championship, has a checkered recollection of his last PGA. After opening with an undistinguished 80 in the 2011 PGA Championship at Atlanta Country Club, Holmes withdrew due to vertigo problems that he'd been coping with for several months.

He was soon diagnosed with structural defects in the cerebellum known as Chiari malformations. On September 1 of that year, he underwent brain surgery which was initially thought to be successful. But about a month later, doctors discovered that Holmes was allergic to the adhesive used on the webbed titanium plate at the base of his skull. He was airlifted from his home in Kentucky to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore for another surgery. It wasn't until January of the following year that Holmes returned to the PGA Tour.

Holmes said during a Tuesday press conference at Valhalla that it was a long road back and a life-changing experience. "When you go through anything like that, it's going to change you," said Holmes, who earned a spot in the PGA Championship off his Wells Fargo victory in North Carolina. "And I've tried to really focus on more just appreciating the opportunities I have and if you have a bad week or miss the cut, doesn't really matter.

"It's just a golf game, and no matter what I do, my family loves me, God loves me, and I've got a good life. So golf's just part of it what I've been given ability to do, and through that hopefully I can do good things and help other people. I've tried to make my goal more of that focus and not so much on the score and everything else.

"It's not always easy to do; it's definitely a frustrating game and I still get frustrated with myself sometimes and not always react the way I would like to," he added. "But I'm working on it and doing the best I can, and I've improved on it and it's definitely helped me a whole lot this year. It's helped me be relaxed a little bit more in the golf course, and I've seen better results."

The former University of Kentucky Wildcat has some positive memories of Valhalla. In 2008 he beat Europe's Soren Hansen 2 and 1 in Sunday's singles to bring the Americans within a point of winning the Ryder Cup, which the USA soon secured when Jim Furyk beat Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, their most recent victory in the biennial competition. His heroics - along with a win in the 2008 FBR Open, which he also won in 2006 - led him and fellow Ryder Cup teammate Kenny Perry to be named Kentuckians of the Year.

Of winning this week in front of a "hometown" crowd at Valhalla, Holmes noted: "It would be great. That's always the goal that I work hard to do and practice and everything else to be able to get in contention in majors, and hopefully win. So to be able to do it in a special place like this, I already have great memories here. Already have wonderful things that's happened here, so yeah, that would be awesome. Hopefully the good memories I have, I can just take those with me when I go on the golf course and be more comfortable and just enjoy being here."

At the conclusion of his Q&A with reporters Tuesday, Holmes was presented with a special award by Commissioner Rodney Brewer of the Kentucky State Police for the monetary donations, time commitment and charity work Holmes has done for Trooper Island, a place of refuge and recreation for the state's troubled youth.

Here's what Holmes, who'll be paired in the first two rounds with England's Luke Donald and Italy's Francesco Molinari, told reporters and the special award presentation by Commissioner Brewer.

MODERATOR: Kentucky's own J.B. Holmes joining us at the 96th PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf club. J.B. won earlier this year at the Wells Fargo event in North Carolina. It's been a long road back, J.B., and you come back here to Valhalla with great memories of 2008 and the United States Ryder Cup victory. Welcome back and some comments on being back at a special place.

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, I'm really excited to come back. Like you said, it's been a long road the last few years to get back and get back into some major tournaments. Definitely one of our main goals this year was to be able to qualify and get to play in this event, so very excited to be here. A lot of great memories. Like you said, it's nice to be in my home state. It's nice to have my friends and family around and really looking forward to the week. The golf course is in great shape and should be a lot of fun.

MODERATOR: Can you talk about any significant changes you see in the golf course this week as compared to what you remember from 2008 and the Ryder Cup?

J.B. HOLMES: I don't see significant changes. I know they redid the greens, so that's probably the biggest change. They just tamed them down a little bit and took a little bit of the breaks out of them but they are in great shape. They are two years old and they have got the SubAir under them, so they have done a great job. The golf course is in good shape. Should be a good tournament.

MODERATOR: In a little bit we are going to have a very special presentation with J.B., but for now let's talk about the PGA Championship.

Q. In terms of the kind of golfer that tends to be successful at this course, guys talk about it's not so much hitting it long, which you did, but the approach shots that are difficult. Do you agree with that, and if so, why? Hitting the ball high to be successful, does that ring true with you?

J.B. HOLMES: I mean, definitely you don't have to hit it long. I think if you're hitting it well, definitely there's a few holes out there you can take advantage of. But iron play and where they can tuck some of the pins, definitely. But I never really looked at it that way. I've played this golf course a lot and I really enjoy it. I think it sets up good for me, so if you want to say long hitters, I would say yes, but I've played it probably a lot more than other people.

Q. Does that give you some confidence; the fact that you may have a home-court advantage of sorts, especially after what happened in 2008?

J.B. HOLMES: I definitely feel like it's a little bit of an advantage having great memories coming here, but other people that played in the Ryder Cup that year have good memories. Like I said, I played this course a lot in college and it's been one of my favorite golf courses. Enjoyed coming out, and I've played it several times. So any time you're familiar or comfortable with a golf course, you definitely feel like you have a little bit of an advantage.

Q. A couple things; one, just wondered what it was like for you today out on the course. Seemed like you were stopping to sign autographs as much as what you were trying to play. And then two, the road back that you've talked about, does that factor into why you and your wife are going to be involved in a charitable event up here in September?

J.B. HOLMES: Well, first of all, being out on the course, yeah, it's different. I don't usually have that many people wanting autographs, so, yeah, it's tough. I can't sign everybody's, which I feel bad, but I have to be able to get my practice in, and I tried to sign as much as I could in between the holes. But yeah, it's great how Kentucky comes out and really supports this event and supports me and Kenny Perry, the Kentucky players. Any time they have had an event, Kentucky has always come out with big support. Very appreciative to have everybody coming out and grateful to be here.

The benefit that me and my wife are helping to run is the Pink Tie Ball for breast cancer. It's just giving back. I had an aunt that died of breast cancer, and I've had some hard times and been fortunate to pull through. I have the God-given ability to be blessed to make a living playing a game, and so I try to give back and help when I can. It was a good cause and hopefully we can get a lot of people to come out there and raise a lot of money.

Q. 2000, were you here watching?

J.B. HOLMES: I was. Actually I was. I was actually here for both of them when Mark Brooks won and the other one. I came up the Sunday, and I think we watched actually Brandon, my caddie, was with me and a couple other buddies. We watched like the first seven or eight holes and the crowds got crazy and we drove home and finished watching it on TV.

Q. What would it mean for you, after all you've been through and being in your home state, just playing well enough this week just to be in contention?

J.B. HOLMES: It would be great. That's always the goal that I work hard to do and practice and everything else to be able to get in contention in majors, and hopefully win. So to be able to do it in a special place like this, I already have great memories here. Already have wonderful things that's happened here, so yeah, that would be awesome. Hopefully the good memories I have, I can just take those with me when I go on the golf course and be more comfortable and just enjoy being here.

Q. How did you do in the long drive competition today and how many times are you planning on using a driver this week in the competition?

J.B. HOLMES: Long drive, I missed the fairway by about two feet, so didn't count. I think it was close. I think I was a little bit short of Gary's, but it was probably 327, 328. It was out there. It was around the flag. And, let's see, probably like I do in a normal event. I'll fluctuate between five and seven drivers. That's usually what I hit in most tournaments, I'll hit several 3 woods and 3 irons. There's opportunities out here, depending on where they put the tees, on a couple short par 4s, where maybe you would hit a driver where I would normally hit a 3 iron or something. Depends on the course setup, but probably five to seven.

Q. In terms of your comeback, how difficult don't want to trivialize it, but how difficult was it in the darkest days, and are you a different person or golfer now than you were before, and if so, in what ways?

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, definitely, when you go through anything like that, it's going to change you. And I've tried to really focus on more just appreciating the opportunities I have and if you have a bad week or miss the cut, doesn't really matter. It's just a golf game, and no matter what I do, my family loves me, God loves me, and I've got a good life. So golf's just part of it that I've been given ability to do, and through that hopefully I can do good things and help other people. I've tried to make my goal more of that focus and not so much on the score and everything else. It's not always easy to do; it's definitely a frustrating game and I still get frustrated with myself sometimes and not always react the way I would like to. But I'm working on it and doing the best I can, and I've improved on it and it's definitely helped me a whole lot this year. It's helped me be relaxed a little bit more in the golf course, and I've seen better results.

Q. When you won earlier this year, if your sister told me right, she came down, her and her family came down on Sunday and you didn't know they followed you around the whole course and didn't know it until after you got through. What did that kind of mean to you to have her there and what has she meant to you during your struggle to get back?

J.B. HOLMES: That was great. That's the first one of my wins I've had the whole family there. My dad has made it to all of them. My mom made it to the other one. And I knew my parents were down there. They come down and my cousins come down and watch that one every year. It was great. I didn't see them until 18, and to see my sister and everybody got down and made it down, it was really neat to have everybody there to enjoy that moment and just kind of cap off a good comeback for me and all that I've been through. My sister was there and my mom and my wife and everybody was there when I was in the hospital with the brain surgery. My agent, Terry, flew down. It was just a great time for me and my family and just a long road and it showed that hard work paid off. It had already paid off because a lot of good things had happened in my life, but it was nice to win.

Q. You mentioned Kenny as another Kentucky guy. As he kind of wraps up his play on this Tour, what's the camaraderie been like for you guys and what's he meant for this state?

J.B. HOLMES: Kenny has been a lot to this state. He's been a lot for golf here. He's been in contention in a lot of majors and had some opportunities. He had a pretty good opportunity here. Kenny is a great guy. He helped me when I got on Tour. Played a lot with him. I don't see him quite as much now since he's playing mostly on the Senior Tour, but great character, great guy, great golfer, great ambassador for the sport, and proud to say he's from Kentucky. It means a lot for the people around here, I think, just to have a good stand up guy like that, and he's a good player, too.

MODERATOR: J.B., you mentioned earlier about giving back to this community and the state on an ongoing basis, and today you're going to be recognized for those efforts. We have with us seven state troopers from the state of Kentucky that have joined us. Talk specifically as they come up here about your willingness, desire to give back to the state and your local community.

J.B. HOLMES: Yeah, like I said, I've done really well being able to chase a little white ball around the world, so I try to help where I can, and Kentucky, happy to be here. Trooper Island is a great area that helps underprivileged kids to be able to do summer camp and enjoy some experiences that they normally wouldn't get to enjoy. It's a great cause, and I was glad to help where I could and be able to help something that's important to the state troopers. My job is not very hard compared to what they have to do, keep us all safe and everything. Just glad I can help them and any support that can help kids, it's a great opportunity. I'm fortunate that I'm able to help.

These guys run all that and take care of those kids. They deserve a lot more credit. I'm just giving them some money. So they do a lot more work than what I do, so they deserve all the praise; for the kids, being able to have a better life and summer for them, anything that can happen, it's nice that you can be able to help them do something like that.

MODERATOR: We have the Commissioner of the Kentucky State Police Rodney Brewer, and while Rodney has a seat, we'll turn it over to Kentucky trooper Billy Gregory, who is going to talk a little bit about Trooper Island.

TROOPER GREGORY: First of all, on behalf of the Kentucky State Police and Commissioner Brewer, we'd like to think the PGA for making this possible but more importantly J.B. for being involved in what it is that we're doing. It's because of the generous donations and support that we get from people like J.B. that make Trooper Island possible. Trooper Island was established in 1965, and we have put approximately 25,000 underprivileged kids through the camp since its inception. We send about 700 or 800 children per summer down to Trooper Island. It is not tax-dollars supported, supported strictly through fund raisers.

One of our biggest fund raisers that we have is a golf tournament and a golf scramble, which led me in turn to J.B. I'm actually from Campbellsville, his hometown. That's how we made a connection. He's been faithful in his efforts to continue to support, never wavering, steadily contributing not only financially but through autographs and memorabilia and things that we can auction off and raise money for. So we really appreciate it. That's one of the reasons that we're here today; his willingness to help serve mankind is true to the core of what the Kentucky State Police is all about. I would like at this point to introduce you to Commissioner Rodney Brewer.

COMMISSIONER BREWER: As Trooper Gregory said, Trooper Island is an incredible place, and we send about 600 to 700 underprivileged kids down there every year without the benefit of tax dollars. And Trooper Island would not be in existence today if it were not for some very, very generous folks like J.B. Holmes.

He was brought to my attention several months ago about the generous outpouring that he's had on Trooper Island for the last several years. J.B., it's my honor to present to you today the honorary rank of State Trooper, and with this goes not a monetary reward but certainly a lot of thanks from us.

When I was listening to you about signing autographs earlier, I didn't think I would be one that would get to sign something for you today. So it's my honor to be able to present you with my autograph, and you represent all of the qualities that we hold near and dear in our agency; perseverance and the struggles that you've had and what we refer to as heart, and you certainly have a huge one. And we certainly appreciate all your help over the past several years at Trooper Island. Thank you so much.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.

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